National Record Holders and Olympic Hopefuls Deepen International Elite Field for 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

  CHICAGO-The Bank of America Chicago Marathon today announced a diverse  group of international athletes-including several national record  holders-who will match strides against Russia's Liliya Shobukhova,  America's Ryan Hall, and Kenya's Moses Mosop on the flat and fast streets  of Chicago on October 9. With the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games less  than a year away, the 34th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon  continues to shape up as a pivotal world-class competition for athletes  vying for Olympic team berths. This includes an exclusive opportunity for  American wheelchair racers to compete for four (top two men and women)  automatic qualifying spots for the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team.

"This year's elite field is one of the most internationally diverse and talented that we 

have ever hosted at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, with the top 

athletes in the world hailing from six continents-North America, South 

America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia," said Executive Race Director 

Carey Pinkowski. "The competitive atmosphere on October 9 will be like that 

of the Olympic Games-a true celebration of the global nature of the sport 

and a thrill for the residents and sports fans of our diverse city."

 

Bidding for her third straight Bank of America Chicago Marathon title, 

Shobukhova, the Russian record holder in the marathon, will face perhaps 

her fiercest competition from Kayoko Fukushi, the Japanese recorder holder 

in the 3,000 meters (8:44.40), 5,000 meters (14:53.22) and half-marathon 

(1:07:26), who will be looking to add the national marathon record to her 

impressive list of accomplishments. Fukushi, a two-time Olympian, struggled 

in her highly anticipated marathon debut at Osaka in 2008, but aims to 

fulfill her marathon promise in her second attempt at the distance.

 

"At this year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I want to challenge the 

2:20 mark, and also test my own abilities in the marathon and what the 

distance involves," said Fukushi. "Racing in Chicago is the start of my 

preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games Marathon in London."

 

Christelle Daunay, who set the French record (2:24:22) with her runner-up 

performance at the 2010 Paris Marathon, and Benita Willis, who set the 

Australian record (2:22:36) with her third-place finish at the 2006 Chicago 

Marathon, will also factor heavily into the mix. Both athletes will be 

looking to make a statement at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as they 

prepare for next summer's Olympic Marathon.

 

Finish times, not just placement, are of the essence for the Russian 

contingent that, in addition to Shobukhova, includes Inga Abitova, 

runner-up at the 2010 Virgin London Marathon, and Maria Konovalova, 

third-place finisher at last year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The 

Russian Olympic Federation will select its Olympic Marathon team based on 

the two fastest times run by Russian athletes between September 1 and 

December 31, 2011.

 

China's Wei Yanan, the two-time Seoul Marathon champion, and Yue Cao, were 

also added to the women's elite field.

 

The men's competition will be far from a two-person race between Hall, the 

American record holder in the half-marathon (59:43), and Mosop, Kenya's 

second fastest marathoner (2:03:06). Brazil's Marilson Dos Santos, the 

two-time ING New York City Marathon champion (2006 and 2008) and national 

record holder in the half-marathon (59:33), returns to the Bank of America 

Chicago Marathon for the first time since finishing sixth in 2004 with his 

eye on Ronaldo Da Costa's Brazilian and South American record of 2:06:05. 

Japan's Atsushi Sato, the national record holder in the half marathon 

(1:00:25), will attempt to break the Japanese marathon record of 2:06:16, 

which was set on the same course by Toshinari Takaoka at the 2002 Chicago 

Marathon.

 

In addition to Sato, the men's field welcomes a group of Japanese athletes 

looking to make a positive impression on their nation's Olympic selection 

committee in the run-up to the 2012 Games, including Takayuki Matsumiya 

(2:10:04), Takashi Horiguchi (2:12:05), Kouji Gokaya (2:12:07), Hironori 

Arai (2:12:17), Masaki Shimoju (2:12:18) and Yuuki Moriwaki (2:13:34). 

Similarly, Columbia's Jason Gutierrez (2:13:24) and Diego Colorado 

(2:16:45) have chosen the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to post Olympic 

qualifying performances-and perhaps challenge their country's national mark 

of 2:11:17 set by Carlos Grisales at the 1996 Boston Marathon. 

 

In the elite wheelchair competition, the 2011 Bank of America Chicago 

Marathon was selected by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) – 

Paralympic Division to serve as an automatic qualifier for the 2012 

Paralympic Games. The top two American finishers (male and female) with the 

National Team "A" Standard will represent Team USA in London next summer. 

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the only marathon in the country 

selected to guarantee placement on the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team 

this year-and the first ever to be so designated.

 

The wheelchair race will feature defending champions Amanda McGrory of the 

U.S. and Heinz Frei of Switzerland. McGrory, who is based out of Champaign, 

Ill., and represents the University of Illinois racing team, is aiming for 

her fourth victory in the last five years. Her only defeat came in 2009 at 

the hands of her U of I teammate, Tatyana McFadden, who will be on the 

start line again this year, along with Canada's Diane Roy and Australia's 

Christie Dawes, the second and fifth place finishers, respectively, at the 

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

 

Frei, in his first appearance at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, sped 

to a course record of 1:26:56 last year, breaking the three-year-old mark 

held by Australia's Kurt Fearnly, who missed the 2010 competition after 

earning three consecutive victories from 2007-2009. This year's race will 

be a highly anticipated showdown between the two champions, with the course 

record once again in jeopardy.